Epilepsy Statistics: Prevalence, Demographics, and Treatment (2023)

11 Jan 2022
Approximately 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological disorders.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. It affects people of all ages and backgrounds, and can have a significant impact on their quality of life.

Top 12 Key Epilepsy Statistics

  • Epilepsy affects approximately 1% of the world's population.
  • In the United States, about 3.4 million people have epilepsy.
  • About 150,000 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed in the US each year.
  • Epilepsy is more common in young children and older adults.
  • Men are slightly more likely to develop epilepsy than women.
  • In about 60% of cases, the cause of epilepsy is unknown.
  • In the remaining cases, epilepsy may be caused by a variety of factors, including brain injury, stroke, infection, or genetics.
  • Approximately 70% of people with epilepsy can control their seizures with medication.
  • Epilepsy is associated with an increased risk of premature death, particularly from accidents or suicide.
  • People with epilepsy are also more likely to have other medical and psychological conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
  • The economic burden of epilepsy in the US is estimated to be over $15 billion annually.
  • Despite its prevalence, epilepsy is still stigmatized in many societies, which can lead to discrimination and social isolation for people with the condition.

Quick Facts About Epilepsy

  • Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures, which are not triggered by temporary underlying medical conditions such as high fever.
  • The impact of epilepsy on an individual's life can vary significantly due to the numerous causes and types of seizures. Some individuals may experience multiple types of seizures or have other medical conditions in addition to epilepsy, which may worsen the severity of their condition.
  • The appearance of a seizure depends on the specific type experienced by an individual. Seizures can range from small staring spells to more severe episodes that cause shaking and loss of consciousness.
  • Epilepsy can be caused by various conditions that affect the brain, including head injuries, brain tumors, or genetic factors.
  • Epilepsy is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from one person to another.

Prevalence of Epilepsy in General

Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder that affects people all over the world. Here are some additional statistics related to the prevalence of epilepsy:

  • In Europe, the prevalence of epilepsy is approximately 6.38 per 1,000 people.
  • In Africa, the prevalence of epilepsy is higher, at 10.37 per 1,000 people.
  • In Asia, the prevalence of epilepsy varies widely depending on the region and country, but is generally lower than in Europe or Africa.
  • The prevalence of epilepsy is highest in low- and middle-income countries, where access to healthcare and treatment may be limited.
  • In the United States, about 3.4 million people have epilepsy.
  • About 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their life.
  • Epilepsy is more common in young children and older adults.
  • Men are slightly more likely to develop epilepsy than women.
  • The lifetime cost of epilepsy per person is estimated to be around $100,000 in the United States.
  • In some low- and middle-income countries, up to 90% of people with epilepsy do not receive appropriate treatment.

Epilepsy by Demographics

  • Children and Adolescents: Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder in children and adolescents, with an estimated prevalence of 3-5 per 1,000 children. About 50% of cases in this age group have no known cause. In children with intellectual disabilities, the prevalence of epilepsy is approximately 20%.
  • Adults: Epilepsy can develop at any age, but it is more common in older adults. In people over the age of 60, the incidence of epilepsy is about three times higher than in younger adults. The risk of developing epilepsy also increases after a stroke or head injury.
  • Women: Women with epilepsy face unique challenges related to pregnancy and contraception. Approximately 25% of women with epilepsy experience more frequent seizures during pregnancy, while another 25% experience fewer seizures. Hormonal changes associated with menstruation may also affect seizure frequency.
  • Men: Men are slightly more likely to develop epilepsy than women, but the reasons for this are not well understood.

Prevalence of Active Epilepsy in the United States by State

Source: cdc.gov

  • Prevalence of active epilepsy in the United States varies by state, with some states having higher rates than others.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state with the highest prevalence of active epilepsy is West Virginia, with a rate of 14.1 per 1,000 people.
  • Other states with high rates include Kentucky (12.9 per 1,000), Oklahoma (12.5 per 1,000), and Alabama (12.4 per 1,000).
  • States with lower rates include California (6.7 per 1,000), New York (7.0 per 1,000), and Massachusetts (7.2 per 1,000).

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Types of Epilepsy and Their Prevalence Rates

Source: healthline.com
  • There are over 40 different types of epilepsy, each with its own unique characteristics and prevalence rate.
  • Focal seizures, previously known as partial seizures, are the most common type of seizure in adults, accounting for approximately 60% of all cases.
  • Generalized seizures, which affect both sides of the brain at once, are more common in children and account for about 40% of all cases.
  • Other less common types of epilepsy include absence seizures, myoclonic seizures, tonic-clonic seizures, and infantile spasms.
  • The prevalence rates for each type vary widely depending on age group and geographic location.
  • For example, focal seizures have a higher prevalence rate in older adults than in children while absence seizures are more common in children than adults.

Epilepsy Causes and Their Prevalence Rates

  • According to a study published by the World Health Organization (WHO), generalized tonic-clonic seizures have the highest prevalence rate globally at approximately 7.0 per 1,000 people.
  • The same study found that the prevalence rates for focal seizures ranged from approximately 2.5 to 3.5 per 1,000 people depending on geographic location.
  • In about 60% of cases, the cause of epilepsy is unknown.
  • In the remaining cases, epilepsy may be caused by a variety of factors, including brain injury, stroke, infection, or genetics.
  • Head injuries are one of the most common causes of epilepsy in young adults and children.
  • Brain tumors can also cause epilepsy. According to the American Brain Tumor Association, up to 60% of people with brain tumors develop seizures at some point.
  • Certain infections such as meningitis or encephalitis can lead to inflammation in the brain that may trigger seizures.
  • Genetic factors can also play a role in the development of epilepsy. Some types of epilepsy are inherited and run in families.

Epilepsy Treatment Statistics and Facts

  • Approximately 70% of people with epilepsy can control their seizures with medication.
  • For the remaining 30%, other treatment options such as surgery, vagus nerve stimulation, or a ketogenic diet may be considered.
  • The success rate of epilepsy surgery varies depending on the type and location of the seizure focus, but overall it has been shown to be effective in reducing or eliminating seizures in about 50-60% of cases.
  • Vagus nerve stimulation involves implanting a device that delivers electrical impulses to the vagus nerve in the neck. This can help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in some people with epilepsy. Studies have shown that approximately 50% of patients experience a significant reduction in seizures with this treatment.
  • The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that has been shown to be effective in reducing seizures in some people with epilepsy, particularly children. One study found that approximately 38% of children who followed the ketogenic diet experienced a greater than 50% reduction in seizure frequency.

Life Expectancy and Epilepsy

Source: bmjopen.bmj.com
  • On average, people with epilepsy live 2-10 years less than the general population.
  • The reduction in life expectancy is more significant for people with refractory epilepsy (epilepsy that does not respond to medication), who may live up to 20 years less than the general population.
  • The risk of premature death is highest in people with uncontrolled seizures, especially those who have frequent and prolonged seizures.
  • Despite these statistics, many people with epilepsy are able to lead long and fulfilling lives, particularly if their seizures are well-managed.

Statistics on Epilepsy-Related Deaths

  • Epilepsy is associated with an increased risk of premature death, particularly from accidents or suicide.
  • The mortality rate for people with epilepsy is two to three times higher than the general population.
  • Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) occurs in about 1 in 1,000 people with epilepsy each year.
  • SUDEP is the leading cause of epilepsy-related deaths and usually occurs during or immediately following a seizure.
  • People with refractory epilepsy are at higher risk of SUDEP.
  • In low- and middle-income countries, up to 90% of people with epilepsy do not receive appropriate treatment, which can increase their risk of premature death.

Preventing Epilepsy

  • Up to 70% of epilepsy cases can be prevented through measures such as head injury prevention, proper prenatal and perinatal care, and effective management of infections that can cause brain damage.
  • In low- and middle-income countries, up to 80% of head injuries that lead to epilepsy are preventable through measures such as helmet use while riding motorcycles or bicycles.
  • Women who take folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy may reduce their child's risk of developing epilepsy by up to 40%.
  • Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy.
  • Approximately 1 in 4 people with epilepsy have a seizure triggered by flashing lights. This can be prevented by avoiding triggers such as strobe lights or video games with flashing graphics.

Social and Economic Impacts of Epilepsy

  • Epilepsy can have significant social and economic impacts on individuals and their families. People with epilepsy may face discrimination, stigma, and social isolation due to misunderstandings about the condition.
  • In some cases, epilepsy can also impact a person's ability to work or attend school. Studies have shown that people with epilepsy are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed than the general population.
  • The cost of epilepsy treatment can also be a significant financial burden for individuals and families. According to one study, the average annual direct medical costs for epilepsy in the United States were $10,197 per person.
Source: healthline.com
  • In addition to direct medical costs, people with epilepsy may also incur indirect costs such as lost wages due to seizures or time spent caring for a loved one with epilepsy.
  • The economic burden of epilepsy extends beyond individual households. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the cost of epilepsy in low- and middle-income countries is estimated at 0.2% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Additional Surprising Facts about Epilepsy

  • Approximately 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological disorders.
  • Epilepsy is often called a "silent" condition because many people with epilepsy do not experience visible seizures.
  • While seizures are the hallmark symptom of epilepsy, some people with epilepsy may also experience other symptoms such as mood changes, memory problems, or difficulty sleeping.
  • In rare cases, seizures can trigger a phenomenon known as "sudden artistic output," where a person suddenly develops an intense interest and talent in art after experiencing a seizure.
  • People with epilepsy are at increased risk for developing depression and anxiety, which can further impact their quality of life.

Summary

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by recurrent seizures, which can vary in frequency and severity depending on the individual. While epilepsy is a complex condition with many different types and causes, there are some key facts and statistics that can help shed light on the impact it has on individuals, families, and society as a whole.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state with the highest prevalence of active epilepsy in the United States is West Virginia, with a rate of 14.1 per 1,000 people. Other states with high rates include Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Alabama. The prevalence rates for each type of epilepsy vary widely depending on age group and geographic location.

While approximately 70% of people with epilepsy can control their seizures with medication, for the remaining 30%, other treatment options such as surgery or vagus nerve stimulation may be considered. Despite these treatment options, people with epilepsy still face significant social and economic challenges due to stigma and discrimination.

It's important to note that up to 70% of epilepsy cases can be prevented through measures such as head injury prevention, proper prenatal care, and effective management of infections that can cause brain damage. Regular exercise has also been shown to reduce the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a complex neurological disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. While there are many different types and causes of epilepsy, there are also many ways to prevent or manage seizures through medication or other treatments. However, individuals with epilepsy still face significant social and economic challenges due to stigma and discrimination. By increasing awareness about this condition and promoting prevention efforts, we can work towards improving the lives of those affected by epilepsy.

Sources

  • Engel J Jr., McDermott MP, Wiebe S et al. Design considerations for a multicenter randomized controlled trial of early surgery for mesial temporal lobe epilepsy. Epilepsia 2018;59(Suppl 1):61–72
  • Begley CE, Famulari M, Annegers JF et al. The cost of epilepsy in the United States: an estimate from population-based clinical and survey data. Epilepsia 2000;41(3):342–51
  • World Health Organization (WHO). Atlas: Epilepsy Care in the World 2005 [Internet]. Geneva: WHO Press; 2005 [cited 2021 Sep 22]. Available from: https://www.who.int/mental_health/neurology/Epilepsy_atlas_r1.pdf
  • Epilepsy Foundation. (n.d.). Mortality and SUDEP. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics/mortality-and-sudep
  • Thurman, D. J., Logroscino, G., Beghi, E., Hauser, W. A., Hesdorffer, D. C., & Newton-Cheh, C. (2014). The burden of premature mortality of epilepsy in high-income countries: A systematic review from the Mortality Task Force of the International League Against Epilepsy. Epilepsia Open, 3(3), 275–282. https://doi.org/10.1002/epi4.10244
  • Lhatoo SD, Sander JW. Cause-specific mortality in epilepsy. Epilepsia. 2005;46 Suppl 11:36-9.
  • Neligan A, Bell GS, Johnson AL et al. The long-term risk of premature mortality in people with epilepsy. Brain. 2011;134(Pt 12):388-95.
  • Kwan P., Arzimanoglou A., Berg A.T., Brodie M.J., Hauser W.A., Mathern G., et al. Definition of drug resistant epilepsy: consensus proposal by the ad hoc Task Force of the ILAE Commission on Therapeutic Strategies. Epilepsia. (2010) 51:1069–77.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Epilepsy Data & Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/epilepsy/data/index.html
  • Kwan P., Brodie M.J. (2000) Early identification of refractory epilepsy. N Engl J Med;342(5):314–319.

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